Dress codes – who’ll be the judge?

Judge John Deed, from the BBC websiteI have already written on this blog about reforms to judicial dress in England and Wales (the image on the right is a well-known example of the previous judicial court dress). Now comes news that Ireland may follow suit. From today’s Irish Independent (with added links):

Fashion guru revamps judges’ robes

Fashion guru Louise Kennedy has been commissioned by the Chief Justice to create an unprecedented new range of designer robes for the country’s judges. Samples of the robes were unveiled last week by John Murray, the Chief Justice, during a judicial training day in Adare, Co Limerick. … it is feared that the cost of the inaugural judicial makeover could lead to the project, the brainchild of Judge Murray, being put on hold until the public finances improve. …

The last effort to change judicial attire occurred in the mid- 1920s when Hugh Kennedy — the first Chief Justice of the Irish Free State — sought to break from away from the English tradition by introducing an exclusive Irish range of robes. According to Judge Kennedy’s papers, there is correspondence on the planned design of judicial robes between Kennedy, William Butler Yeats and printmaker Charles Shannon. But the project did not attract political approval. …

I’m sure that the time has come for Irish judges to simplify their judicial dress, but I’m not sure I would go as far as the reforms across the Irish sea. I would phase out wigs, wing collars and bands, and the black coat and vest, leaving a streamlined requirement simply of a black Irish poplin gown over an appropriate dark suit. Moreover, I would have no objection to the idea of revising the design of the gown, though I will have to withhold judgment until (either) Kennedy’s designs are published. Moreover, if it happens on the bench, will the bar follow suit?


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